Hey, Steve Jobs Death-Watch Ghouls: Go Crawl Under a Rock

Last Updated Feb 22, 2011 4:12 PM EST

The ghoulish death watch on Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs seems in full swing. RadarOnline.com, clearly bereft without some Lindsay Lohan or Kardashian Klan escapade, snagged video of Jobs looking weak as he left a Palo Alto, Calif., restaurant.

Enough. This morbid fascination with what might, or might not, be the final days for a controversial and brilliant CEO has clearly crossed a line. Granted that Jobs and Apple have have invited much of the gallows gazing by turning the man and his company into celebrities. But there comes a point when the decent thing to do is to turn away and leave the afflicted in peace.

Much of the media has sullied itself in hopes of goosing online traffic and making a few extra bucks by capitalizing on Jobs' misfortune. Those who can't turn away from this train wreck should ask themselves why. What do they hope to get from it? Something that will settle their nerves and explain the future, presumably. But it isn't going to happen.

Investors
Those with money in Apple stock are understandably interested in what happens to Jobs, who is a significant asset for the company. But come on -- you either already knew about Apple's secretive paranoia, or you've failed to pay even lip service to the idea of due diligence.

When Apple finally revealed that Jobs had needed a liver transplant, critics unloaded on the company's deceit. Apple said that Jobs had a hormonal imbalance. Unless you just hit the planet in the last 12 months, you must have heard the stories. How could you possibly think that you might get any straight story, directly or not?

And even if you could know Jobs' future, what would you do with the knowledge? Short your shares and try to guess how far down the price would go? Sell? Or just wait for the 24 hours or so that it would likely take for the market to get over its shock and return to normal? Like any other company, Apple's real problems are systemic, not tied up in the health concerns of one man.

Competitors and business partners
Companies in high tech have become so enamored of trying to closely follow Apple, it's a wonder they don't break their noses on Apple's tailbone every time the leader stumbles.

If you're a high-tech exec and you haven't started doing the work to become truly competitive with Apple -- well, waiting for Jobs to die isn't going to help you. The company's lead won't disappear and you won't suddenly become more innovative and clever. You'll just get complacent and then start cursing when Apple appears to keep up its pace of innovation. Or do you really believe the story that Apple is a one-man company and that all good ideas have come from Jobs? If so, you've done no credible competitive research and deserve to remain a doormat.

Apple's business partners, meanwhile, should already know its strengths and weaknesses. It has plenty of money to pay you for what it orders, plenty of lawyers to sue you should you not keep up your end of the bargain and plenty of customers who will want more goods and services for at least the next few years. Beyond that, who can make a promise anyway?

Customers
You already use Apple's stuff, and none of it will disappear with Steve Jobs. It's not as if Apple gives you a road map for the future anyway, so you have no idea what is around the corner. Would you really stop buying iPhones, iPads and forthcoming iWhatevers just because Jobs exits stage left? If so, given his already public health history, you might as well stop now. Chances are good, though, that you get Apple products because you like them. And if something comes along that suits you better in the future, you'll likely switch. It's no different than before.

Those rabidly partisan Apple lovers called fanbois have a tougher row to hoe. They are the ones who live, breath, eat, and sleep Apple and Jobs. Investing yourself that deeply in a corporation --- or a corporate icon -- is a mistake, because neither can ever be a friend, companion, or other simpatico entity. You'll feel bad when Jobs dies, as we all eventually do. But hanging on to every detail is unhealthy.

General public
If you don't fall into one of the above categories, then move along and stop gawking. You have even less excuse for staring.

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Image: Flickr user Unlisted Sightings, CC 2.0.
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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.